Innovation in medical science and technology has made it easy to determine a fetus’ condition. The technology used for this purpose is called prenatal diagnosis and proved itself as a boon for pregnancy care. However, it is being misused on a large scale in India, as a result of the widespread preference of male child over a female child in the Indian society. Indian laws have been enacted to curb the practice of female feticide in India.
It is worth noting that the crude practice is being given a boost by medical practitioners themselves. In the attempt to make big bucks, several medical professionals, including doctors and clinics, are willing to disclose illegal information about gender of the fetus to the families. This results in abortion of the fetus, if it happens to be a girl. Such practice by the medical practitioners is not only a violation of the human rights law, but also an abuse of the code of ethics and conduct of medical profession.
Indian Laws regarding Protection of Women’s Rights
To control female feticide, the Government of India enacted the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994.
The Act, which came into operation on January 1, 1996, restricts the determination and revelation of gender of the fetus. The act also specifies the code of conduct for medical practitioners.
Under the PNDT Act, an individual/institution found guilty of advertising pre-natal determination of gender in any form is subject to imprisonment and/or fine. The PNDT Act was amended subsequently in 2002 and 2003, owing to innovation in technologies for sex determination that impede the implementation of the Act.
Indian Laws: Kerala as an Example of Matriarchal Society and Female Equality
Despite such stringent efforts and laws, the condition of female feticide in India continues to be bleak. According to Census reports 2001, the sex ratio across most states in India (for children between 0-6 years) was lopsided, particularly in the northern region. For instance, there were only 798 and 819 girls per 1000 boys in Punjab and Haryana respectively.
However, not all Indian states can be clubbed together with regard to female feticide. For example, Kerala follows a distinct matriarchal society wherein the name, wealth and property of a family is transferred by custom from mother to daughter. For the same reasons, the birth of a daughter is always an event for great family celebration. Unlike many other states, the very idea of female feticide is actually unbelievable for people from Kerala.
Indian Laws: Can We Usher in An Era of Change?
To bring about change in our thinking and prejudices, we need to question what we believe now. We need dedicated medical professionals who will create awareness about the dangers of female feticide. We need responsible decision makers and citizens to begin media and grass root campaigns across the country to create better awareness about treating the birth of a girl with joy than fear. We need to do so much more to make a difference and stop incidents of female feticide.